Parish Profiles: Portland

Parish Name: Portland

Capital: Port Antonio

Land Area: 813.9 km2 (314.3 sq. miles)

Population: 82,183

Introduction

Portland is a parish located on Jamaica’s northeast coast. It is situated to the north of St Thomas and the east of St. Mary. The parish is known for its natural beauty, stunning beaches, lush vegetation, multiple caves and rivers as well as the peak of the Blue Mountain range. It lies in the direct path of the prevailing northeast trade winds that bring rain, and its hilly terrain trap the winds and ensure almost daily rainfall.

History

Portland, a combination of the parish of St. George and part of St. Thomas, was named after the Duke of Portland who was a Governor of Jamaica between 1722 and 1726. The Maroons who lurked in the Blue and John Crow Mountains were adamant that Europeans would not settle in Portland. They got all their firepower by raiding plantations or purchasing from mercenaries. The 1730s saw a series of battles between the Maroons and the British.  When it seemed that the Maroons were about to destroy Portland, the British captured Nanny Town, the Maroon settlement whose leader was the woman who would later become Jamaica’s first National Heroine – Nanny.

Portland is known for its vast contribution to the country’s agricultural output, especially in the cultivation of banana, coconut and breadfruit for both the domestic and foreign markets. Most of its coastal strip has been designated as land suitable for cultivation with almost no limitation. No other agricultural land has been attributed with this description in Jamaica.

Geographical Location

Portland is bounded on the north and northeast by the Caribbean Sea, west by St. Mary and south by St. Thomas; the parish covers 89.86km of the island’s total coastal area, while its maximum width is approximately 20.8km. Portland’s coastline stretches from Hectors River in the east to Windsor Castle in the west.

Main Towns

The two main towns of the parish are Port Antonio, the capital and Buff Bay. Port Antonio is regarded as the cradle of the tourism industry, having been the first town in the country to accommodate tourist visits as a result of the emergence of the Banana Industry. The parish has the distinction of having two harbours and one of its main features is Navy Island, situated on its western harbour. Port Antonio in recent years has been assuming increasing importance as an economic and cultural centre, and it is the hideaway for some of Jamaica’s most exclusive tourist accommodations.

 

Local Attractions/ Places of Interest

Somerset Falls

Tumbling down the hillsides, Daniel’s River makes a beautiful painting of the landscape.  Miniature waterfalls along the narrow gorge add to this awesome scenery, with the mist and the steady rush of water blotting out the outside world.

The Nonsuch Caves

As the popular story goes, these caves were “rediscovered” in 1957 by a goat that seemed to have lost its way.  Mother Nature seems to have used her free hand to create similar structures to what man has created to adorn the chambers.

Blue Lagoon

A 55-metre (180 ft) deep extinct volcano, surrounded by lush tropical foliage fed by underground streams feed the Blue Lagoon.  In its heyday, this area was famous for water skiing.

Rio Grande

In recent times, rafting on this river has become a great tourist attraction.  Rafting starts at Berrydale and continues for about 4 kilometres ending at Rafter’s Rest.

Reach Falls

Situated in Manchioneal, these breathtaking falls are a scenic highlight of the area.

 

 

Crystal Springs

This is a recreational centre which boasts 156 acres.  Among the facilities offered are fishponds and river, picnic grounds and a garden.

Navy Island

Seven minutes by boat from Port Antonio.  Attractions include a guided tour by reservation.  There are also cottages and villas, a marina bar, restaurant and white sand beach with water sporting activities.

Titchfield School

The main building of Titchfield was at one time a military barracks, built in 1743 to protect planters against invasion and attacks from the Maroons.  Fort George, which overlooks the harbour, was built in 1729.  Titchfield was founded in 1786 as a “free” school for the education of the youth of the parish.

Fair Prospect Comprehensive High School

This is the location of the Fair Prospect Windmill Tower.  The Tower was used to lift water from an underground source, which is now a dry cave.  The tower was converted to a residence; however, the integrity of the exterior of the windmill is maintained.

Seaman’s Valley

This property has on it the ruins of the Seaman’s Valley Great House and the first European cemetery in this area of Portland.  Here George Fuller, famous English superintendent of the Moore Town Maroons was buried.  The Seaman’s Valley road leads to Moore Town, the oldest settlement of the entire valley, and also to the headquarters of the Eastern Maroons.

Cenotaph – Port Antonio

The Cenotaph, Port Antonio, is situated opposite the market.  It was erected in 1929 by voluntary subscription and is dedicated to those who died in the First World War.

Old Nanny Town

Situated on Nanny Town Hill High above sea level, this was the most famous settlement of the Maroons.  It had over 140 houses, most of which were burnt by the militia and rebuilt by the Maroons during the four years of fighting which preceded the treaty.

It has been named after Nanny, the great Maroon leader who brought the Maroon many of their victories during the first Maroon War.  Built around 1723, it was not discovered by the English until 1728, when Sambo, an African led them to it.

Today there is little to see, but the ruins of the barracks built by the occupying troops between 1734 and 1740.  A plaque commemorates the occupancy of Nanny Town by Colonel Brooks and the British troops under him.

Moore Town (New Nanny Town)

In 1739, Cudjoe, Nanny’s brother, signed a peace treaty with the British.  The Maroons thereby became the first group of blacks to succeed in gaining their freedom from their colonial masters.  Nanny, however, refused to sign a treaty with the British but agreed to a truce.  Nanny’s Maroons, after the truce, divided themselves into two groups, one of which went with her brother Quaco to Crawford Town and the other group followed Nanny to a new settlement, New Nanny Town, now called Moore Town.

The success of settlements like Moore Town depended to a large extent on the quality of the Superintendent and Moore Town was fortunate in obtaining good ones.  The most famous of these was Lt. George Fuller, an Englishman, who became the Acting Barracks master, and later Superintendent at Moore Town between 1809 and 1823.  He also started the Fuller family through marriage with a Maroon girl.

Moore Town is today governed by a Colonel, a Maroon given the honorary title earned by his ancestors.

SEE MORE PORTLAND HERITAGE SITES

Important Jamaicans from the Parish

The Right Excellent Nanny of the Maroons, Jamaica’s only Heroine, was a well-known rebel leader of the Jamaican Maroons in the eighteenth century. The government of Jamaica declared Queen Nanny a National Heroine in 1976.

The Hon. Dr. Thomas P. Lecky, OM, agricultural icon, was born on December 31, 1904 in Swift River, Portland.

The Hon. Professor Manley Elisha West, OM, pioneer pharmacologist, was born on March 17, 1929 in Fairy Hill, Portland.

His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, ON, GCMG, CD, was appointed Governor-General of Jamaica on February 26, 2009. He is the sixth person, and fifth Jamaican, to hold this position since independence in 1962. Patrick Linton Allen was born on February 7, 1951 in Fruitful Vale, Portland.

The Hon. Cecil Baugh, OJ, the ‘Master Potter’ was born in Bangor Ridge, Portland in the early 20th century. He passed away on June 28, 2005 at the age of ninety-six.

The Hon. Michael Lee-Chin, OJ, Canadian business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, in 1951. He is currently Executive Chairman of the National Commercial bank of Jamaica.